As part of California’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, law enforcement in the Bay Area will have zero tolerance for illegal cell phone use and texting.
A first ticket for using a cell phone while driving unless using a hands-free device costs a minimum of $159 and subsequent tickets cost $279, officials said.
Distracted driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts everyone on the road at risk, joining speeding and alcohol as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.
As a result, law enforcement across the state, including , is increasingly cracking down on cell phone use and texting.
Starting Monday, and throughout the month, Livermore officers will join more than 225 local agencies plus 103 CHP area commands conducting zero tolerance enforcements.
“Distracted driving has become a serious issue and has resulted in an increase in traffic accidents. This is a serious matter and we will be strictly enforcing any violations,” Livermore Police Chief Steve Sweeney said. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Younger, inexperienced drivers younger than 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
In addition, studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood-alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.
“We recognize that convincing drivers to refrain from using cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Office of Traffic Safety director. “It’s very difficult to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call. That’s why we are stepping up enforcement and public awareness efforts.
Convincing California drivers to wear seat belts 20 years ago wasn’t easy either, but in 2010 more than 96 percent buckled up and thousands of lives were saved.”
Studies show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations; both can result in “inattention blindness,” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is visible because the driver's focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.
There are simple measures drivers can take to minimize distractions in the vehicle:
- Turn your phone off or put it out of reach before starting the car.
- Alert callers that you are unable to take calls when driving by changing your voicemail message.
- Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving, such as during the commute to and from work or school, especially parents calling teen drivers.
- If you do need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over.
- If going cold turkey is too much of a stretch and you just can’t turn your phone off, consider using one of the available mobile phone apps that hold calls and incoming texts.
“We just want drivers to use some common sense when they’re behind the wheel and focus on driving,” Murphy said. “Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive every day. Were any really worth a $159 ticket – or worse, a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it.”
—Livermore Police Department